piece of music is placed in front of you and—what?—you’re supposed to play this stuff cold?One of the least anticipated elements of an audition is the dreaded task of sight reading. As perfectly as you may have prepared your performance pieces and your scales, all of a sudden a completely foreign
Horribly fumbling through a passage of music for a panel of judges is not only scary, but potentially embarrassing—especially after so much preparation for an otherwise impressive audition.
But it doesn’t have to go badly, and the prospect of sight reading doesn’t have to fill you with absolute dread. The stage fright that sets in when that piece is placed in front of you can be completely avoided if you approach the task with confidence and a little know-how.
HOW TO SIGHT READ
I guess one way is to take a book of studies like Wohlfahrt or Kayser and force yourself never to have a gap at the end of a line. Then you know you are reading ahead at least a little.
I once was told by a teacher that doing a lot of scales so you know the fingerboard really well does the trick. There's some truth to that.
Elise- I'm with ya on that one! As a fellow amateur kammermusiker I'm sure you've had similar experiences to me- reading-through pieces with people and finding that while all this wonderful technique work I've been doing is just lovely, it's worth absolutely nothing if I'm not able take in the music on the page in a timely way. I've said this countless times in various threads here - it's not just sight-reading, it's music-reading in general and being able to read ahead is a hugely valuable tool for this thing we do. For this reason I've been trying to develop my ability to read ahead & I've been picking the brains of my friends who are really good readers. Reading ahead seems to be a common theme. Now how to develop it? I'd love to hear ideas on this, but I figure just start with making the conscious effort to have your eyes ahead of where you're playing no matter what. I've heard of a teacher blocking the music so that the student can't see the measure they're currently playing.
Reading ahead is the second most important music reading skill--perhaps even the first! I've blocked off students' music before, but honestly, the only way to develop reading ahead is to practice doing it. It's one of those skills that comes suddenly. I had a student show up to her lesson elated that she read ahead during orchestra that day. From then on, she was a much more fluent reader.
One thing that helps with sight reading is being able to recognize pitch and rhythm patterns in the music. If you've developed your ear, it's easy to hear the notes in your head, and then transfer it to the instrument. This, of course, assumes you have A) a mastery of said instrument, B) a mastery of ear training and C) fluency in what notation means. If you have all of the above, the steps listed in this article will make you a top sight reader. It all takes practice, but then, so did learning to read English, or type or any number of skills we no longer have to think about.
I was lucky to have a parent take a blank index card and cover the measure I was playing, always covering a measure ahead. I wonder if there's a way to do that automatically now?
These are great comments. It seems that reading music and reading prose are so similar. Maybe developing speed reading skills may help; i.e. the ability to absorb information by looking at an entire phrase, sentence, or line rather than by sounding out individual phonetic sounds or words. In music terms, this would mean looking at a musical figure or phrase and knowing what it should sound like rather than by looking at each individual note and piecing the notes together.
I am also a firm believer in the power of sight singing, or being able to know what the music sounds like by simply looking at it. I agree that skill will definitely help sight reading more than anything.
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December 18, 2012 at 01:55 PM · Very nice summary. To me the 10K question is how does one develop the reading-ahead (or eye–hand span) skill? It does improve with practice and use but surely there are methods to develop it faster. Do you know of any?